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What is COVID-19 sequencing?

Keep reading below to find out all about Sequencing and why it’s such an important tool in the fight against COVID-19

coronavirus covid-19
Image: Tumisu from Pixabay

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a tragic loss of human life worldwide. And this deadly virus continues to present an unprecedented challenge to public health. The social and economic disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating.

While we’re not in the ideal situation at the moment with COVID-19, testing still remains a critical component. Testing allows us to identify individuals who have the virus, treat them accordingly, or ask them to isolate in order to prevent the virus from spreading further. 

Not only can testing help us to identify individuals who are infected with the virus, but testing is also important in the bigger public health picture. It can help scientists characterize the spread of the disease, how contagious the disease is, and whether the disease is mutating over time. 

 There are two main tests available to help us with this: PCR tests and NGS (Next Generation Sequencing). Sequencing is a vital tool in the diagnosis of COVID-19, and it can also help us to understand the spread of the disease. Keep reading below to find out all about Sequencing and why it’s such an important tool in the fight against COVID-19:

Genomes and Sequencing

An organism’s genetic material is called a genome. A genome is basically a set of instructions that include all of the information required to maintain and produce it. Human genomes are built with double-stranded genomes. You may know it better as DNA. These genomes are over three billion base letters long. 

Unlike human genomes, virus genomes can either be made of DNA or RNA. The COVID-19 virus is made of RNA. It has a single short RNA strand that is 30,000 letters long. While it’s easy to see the genetic make-up of a genome, it’s much harder to read and understand it. Scientists use sequencing to read and understand the RNA or DNA of a virus. 

What is Sequencing?

When an individual is diagnosed with the coronavirus, their sample is analyzed alongside other samples. This is called genomic sequencing. During this process, the positive test swab will go through several stages to separate the mucus proteins from the RNA molecules. Once separated, the RNA molecules are turned into DNA that can be read and understood. Genomic sequencing has been used for a variety of reasons in the past, including to track the source of hospital infections or outbreaks of food-borne bacteria. 

Why is Sequencing Important?

Genomic sequencing is a technique that allows scientists to read and understand genetic information found in RNA or DNA. Sequencing can be used to track the evolution of a virus. This can help public health officials to monitor the spread of the virus and put in place the right rules and restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading further

Sequencing of COVID-19 Around the World

Over the last few months, we’ve seen countries around the world ramping up their testing efforts in order to overcome this deadly virus. Understanding how the virus has changed over time can help us to work out how long the virus had gone undetected. It can also help us to work out what measures need to be put in place to prevent the spread of the virus until a vaccine can be found. 

Sequencing of COVID-19 is being completed by scientists all around the world as they work with one another to locate the source of outbreaks. One example of this is the Bay Area outbreak in California. Sequencing linked this outbreak of the virus to a cruise ship, which linked back to Washington State. This mutation of the virus was first detected in China. 

Sequencing is an important tool in the fight against COVID-19. Not only can sequencing help us to identify new viruses, but it can also help us to track viruses and monitor to see if the viruses mutate over time. 

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